Boston Bruins

How will Anders Bjork impact the Bruins?

How will Anders Bjork impact the Bruins?

It’s impossible to predict just exactly how good 20-year-old Anders Bjork is going to be with the Bruins next season.

He’s a very different player than the much-hyped Jimmy Vesey as a smaller, faster winger with a tiny bit of grit built into his game, and that might play to his advantage at the NHL level. Vesey struggled at times while making the jump from NCAA straight to the NHL, and finished with 16 goals and 27 points along with a minus-13 rating in 80 games for the Rangers. But the Notre Dame standout will need to prove, just as Bruins prospects Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did, that minimal or zero training time in the AHL is required to hack it in the National Hockey League. 

“I was very fortunate to get drafted by the Bruins and it’s pretty cool that I’ve done well enough to earn a contract with such a prestigious organization. So, it’s one thing to sign an NHL contract, but it’s another to sign it with an organization like the Boston Bruins that has so much history and is so prestigious,” said Bjork, the former fifth round pick after signing earlier this week. “Yeah, I’m very excited. I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I think it’s a challenge that I’m ready to face and think I can handle.

“Obviously, there’s a ton of good prospects and young players in the organization so it’s going to be tough to earn a spot on the Bruins, in Boston. I think I know that I’m going to be training really hard. I plan to work a lot on my strength and stuff like that and just anything I can do to give myself a better shot at making the team, I think I’m going to do. It’s going to take a lot of effort. But, it’s a great opportunity. I’m excited about that and that’s definitely going to drive me this summer.”

The 21 goals and 52 points and level of dominance at Notre Dame for the 6-foot, 180-pound Bjork are good indicators he could be ready right away, but then again he looked fairly average in his five game stint for Team USA at the World Championships compared to Frank Vatrano starring for a bare bones American roster just a year prior. 

So let’s just say hypothetically that Bjork shows enough in training camp to win a top-6 job with the Bruins out of training camp, and starts the year riding shotgun on the left side with David Krejci and David Pastrnak on Boston’s second line. It’s not the traditional power forward bookends that Krejci has thrived with in the past during the Cup years with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, but the Czech center is the kind of smart passer that can throw passes into space to utilize the speed of players like Pastrnak and Bjork on either side. 

Krejci and Pastrnak combined for 57 goals last season, so they’re going to command a ton of attention from defenses in the kind of setup that could Bjork lots of room to operate, create and find his offensive effectiveness at the NHL level. That goes doubly so if a 31-year-old Krejci can regain a little more speed and explosiveness one year removed from his hip surgery, and after a summer of health and full workouts. 

If Bjork can be a 15-20 goal player that exerts pressure on opponents with his skating speed and ability to finish, that in turn will give the Bruins a pair of heavily armed and dangerous forward lines at the top of their roster. It’s something the Bruins didn’t have last season when there were stretches when a jam-packed trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak were providing all of the offense for the B Black and Gold, and therefore easier to stop when all opponents needed to do was focus on shutting them down. 

Ideally the addition of Bjork, or perhaps Jake DeBrusk or even AHL playoff standout Danton Heinen if they beat out the Notre Dame star in a training camp battle that could be interesting to watch, will bring the kind of balance Boston hasn’t enjoyed over the last couple of seasons. That in turn would allow players like Vatrano and David Backes to slot in where they’re better-served as third line performers, and could truly make Boston a much more consistently dangerous offensive group. 

Here’s what the Bruins lines could look like in September: 

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen/DeBrusk

Bjork-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Forsbacka Karlsson-Backes

Beleskey-Nash-Acciari

 

On paper it’s exciting and could really become a Bruins team ready to make a big jump next season with players like Bjork up front and 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy on the back end, but both youngsters will also need some time to develop, make mistakes and round out their games while learning on the NHL job. It will be an environment conducive to that with Bruce Cassidy behind the Boston bench and with a GM like Don Sweeney that cut his NHL executive teeth in the draft/development game that’s so important these days at the NHL level. 

But getting back to the Vesey example from the very beginning, let’s not put too much pressure on Bjork to be a world-beating winger right out of the starting gate at the NHL level. It may take a couple of years for a young player to figure out how his skills fit best at the next level, and doing that amid expectations of production can be very challenging. 

The Bruins are a couple of years away, if all goes right, from potentially developing back into Stanley Cup contenders, and next season should be about prospect development and taking another progressive step team-wise after pushing back into the postseason. Anything else will be gravy whether it’s Bjork, DeBrusk, Senyshyn, McAvoy or any other of the myriad Bruins prospects poised to take Boston places a couple of years down the line with an organization flush with young talent.  

Three first period goals power Bruins to 4-2 win over Blackhawks

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Three first period goals power Bruins to 4-2 win over Blackhawks

BOSTON – In their final home dress rehearsal of the preseason prior to the start of the regular season schedule at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins gave their fans plenty to cheer about.

Powered by three goals scored in the first period, the B’s took a 4-2 win over a preseason roster of Chicago Blackhawks players at the Garden to push their preseason record to 4-1-0 with a couple of exhibition games still left to be played. It was as much the players that scored as the scoring itself was the cause of excitement with Boston’s star players stepping up, and the young prospects once again demanding notice during auditions for NHL jobs.

David Pastrnak scored on a sniper shot over Corey Crawford’s glove hand just 52 seconds into the game, and Jeremy Lauzon followed 36 seconds later with a long distance blast from the left point.

Anders Bjork made it a breakout night when he stepped into a one-timer blast midway through the first while teaming up with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Brandon Saad and John Hayden pushed it back to a one-goal game midway through the second period, but a power-play strike from Bergeron in the third period gave the Bruins all the cushion they would need for victory.

Malcolm Subban got the start for the B’s between the pipes, and he was strong while stopping 24-of-26 shots that he faced, including a flurry of athletic saves in the third period that got the home crowd on its feet. Subban finished up with a strong 14 saves in the third period while helping the B’s slam the door on the Blackhawks. 

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks looking for right mix on fourth line

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks looking for right mix on fourth line

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading. while readying for the last home game of the preseason tonight. Boy that went by quickly.

*Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is looking for the right mix on the fourth line for the Hawks.

*The NHL is coming late to the China party and it makes one wonder what will happen for the Winter Olympic Games set to be played there in 2022.

*PHT writer Adam Gretz has the Arizona Coyotes wanting to retire the freshly-retired Shane Doan’s number in the future.

*Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan says that the decision to accept the White House’s invitation was independent of politics. Certainly, it was, but the timing of it and the feeble statement to go along with it left a lot to be desired.

*Pierre Lebrun goes 1-on-1 with Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien to talk about his past, his present and his future behind the bench with the Habs. I had always intended to subscribe to the Athletic, and this is the article that finally got me to do it as I get to read a few moments with one of the classiest individuals in the NHL in Julien. It certainly had a few rocky moments toward the end here in Boston for Julien, but I will always respect that guy as a coach and, more importantly, as a person.  

*For something completely different: an interesting look at Alejandro Villanueva, the only Pittsburgh Steelers player, and a proud veteran, to stand outside the tunnel and on the field for the national anthem prior to the Steelers game on Sunday.